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Is Khabib the “GOAT”?

Cover photo courtesy of John Barry

At the UFC 242 post press conference Khabib stated his claim for deserving the #1 spot on the P4P list. Many are starting to view Khabib as the all time G.O.A.T. of MMA while others believe different fighters hold that title. Strength of schedule should be considered when deciding who the GOAT of any sport is, but one must also consider raw statistics that show who is more dominant. At 28-0 Khabib inarguably has the strongest record in MMA history.

Below are some fighters many would argue are the GOAT over Khabib, despite having inferior records:

Jon Jones 25-1

Georges St. Pierre 26-2

Demetrious Johnson 29-3

Anderson Silva 34-10

*Fedor Emelianenko 38-6

All five above mentioned names are often put in the GOAT conversation by pundits and fans, all for great reasons. Jon Jones and Georges St. Pierre are tied for the most title fight victories in UFC history with 13. Jon Jones is the youngest UFC champion in history, winning the belt at just 21 years old. St. Pierre went a decade without losing. DJ left the UFC with 12 title victories while Anderson Silva has 11. DJ probably gets the GOAT nod more from pundits and martial art experts because he’s so technically well rounded. Silva gets the nod by many for his UFC record 16 win streak, finishing 14 of those opponents. Fedor is the only person on the above list with zero fights in the UFC and for that reason many people would automatically discard him from the list. Being a person who actively watched the great days of Pride FC and Fedors dominant 10 year reign over very high level competition for it’s time, I have to enter him into the debate.

A post shared by Khabib Nurmagomedov (@khabib_nurmagomedov) on Sep 4, 2019 at 10:25am PDT

I may get backlash for this but my genuine belief is that Khabib is now the GOAT. Not just in UFC lightweight history, not just in UFC history, he is the greatest mixed martial artist we’ve seen compete since competitive MMA (as we know it) was born in 1993. My reasoning is backed by facts and statistics that can only be debated by the “strength of schedule” argument. If you take strength of schedule out of the equation and look at what fighter has been statistically the most dominant, Khabib is #1. Here are some of those facts:

Khabib’s Stats

  1. 28-0 record

  2. 12-0 UFC record (best winning % in UFC history, Usman also 100% at 10-0)

  3. Tied #3 with Tony Ferguson for longest winning streak in UFC history (12). Silva #1 at 16, St. Pierre #2 with 13

  4. UFC record for most rounds won in a row (32), St. Pierre #2 (30)

  5. UFC record for most takedowns in a fight (21)

  6. Only lost 1 round in his 12 fight UFC career, 3rd round vs McGregor at UFC 229

  7. #6 on all time takedown list in UFC history with 59. #1 St. Pierre 90, #2 Tibau 84, #3 D.J. 74, #4 Lentz 68, #5 Edgar 67

  8. Highest selling PPV in MMA history, UFC 229 2,400,000 buys (800,000 more than Conor vs Diaz 2)

  9. #9 lowest strike absorption rate in UFC history at 1.7 per min while landing 4.3 strikes per min

Khabib’s ability to render his opponents helpless

The above facts can be coupled with the fact that we’ve never seen Khabib take damage in the UFC octagon. Tibau probably gave Khabib his toughest fight in his 12 UFC wins, yet all judges scored the fight 30-27. Though Tibau wouldn’t allow takedowns he spent most of the fight defending them, never got his offense going and was unable to damage Khabib. Michael Johnson was able to land one clean left on Khabib’s face but when Khabib left the fight he didn’t look like he’d been hit with a single punch. Last Saturday Porier may have landed the best punch on Khabib we’ve ever seen, but once again Khabib was seen later doing his post fight interviews without any signs of damage. Though McGregor is the one person who can claim winning a round against Khabib, he was never able to land anything meaningful. Anybody who watched that fight realized Khabib was basically taking a round off after a massive energy expending and dominant 10-8 2nd round. Only two people can claim a more dominant 12 fight win streak in MMA and that is Ronda Rousey and Shane Carwin. Rousey finished 11-12 in the 1st, only Meisha made it into later rounds but still got finished. Carwin finished all 12 in the 1st. . Unfortunately for Rousey and Carwin their win streaks were severely halted by back to back losses, ending their career MMA records at 12-2.

Role of PEDs

I also consider Khabib’s record as a clean athlete and that he isn’t a habitual line stepper with the rules, in and out of the cage. Basically, he doesn’t need to cheat to win. He’s never had an issue with USADA while 2 key players on the above list have had serious problems with banned substances. Silva has 10 losses and with his USADA issues I can’t put him above Khabib in the GOAT conversation. Khabib also isn’t known for eye pokes, groin strikes, fence grabs or other things that could earn point deductions. Many people, and to some degree I include myself in this bunch, have a very hard time calling somebody a GOAT when they have been busted for performance enhancing drugs (especially steroids, EPO, etc). In my opinion, if you have been popped and suspended for 2 years or more for that type of violation, you should probably be taken off the GOAT list.

Khabib’s Resiliency

I have a hard time putting anybody with multiple losses as the GOAT over somebody who’s never lost in almost 30 professional fights, not to mention has only lost 1 round and has never been evidently hurt. Jon Jones hasn’t ever truly lost but he has been immediately sent to the hospital after a couple close split decision victories and has lost many rounds in his MMA career. St. Pierre got knocked out by Matt Serra and had an extremely questionable dec win over Hendricks where his face was battered and Hendricks looked like he’d barely sparred. Demetrious Johnson hasn’t ever been beat up too badly by anybody in his losses, but he does have 3 losses and has definitely left fights more beat up than Khabib ever has. Despite my admiration of Fedor and his streak of dominance from 2000-2009 I can’t put him above the other men on the above list, as well as Khabib.

Final thoughts

A post shared by Khabib Nurmagomedov (@khabib_nurmagomedov) on Aug 18, 2019 at 11:40pm PDT

This is my stake for Khabib as the MMA GOAT. At the UFC 242 post fight press conference Dana White said “It’ll take another couple wins for Khabib to be the GOAT”. I’m guessing many MMA fans will side with Dana over my assessment. From what I see on social media, many people feel Khabib needs a couple more high profile victories to claim GOAT status, especially a victory over Tony Ferguson. Khabib and St. Pierre have both expressed a lot of interest in fighting one another, which if that were to happen could definitely decide who people think who the GOAT is. Though it seems anything is possible in the UFC, I don’t expect that fight to happen. It’s doubtful Khabib would take the fight unless it was at 155. The only way I could see them fight at 170 or some catch weight limit would be if it was a retirement fight for both men. The UFC would probably want it guaranteed that no matter who won, weight classes would move on. I could see the UFC making Khabib give up his title before letting him fight St. Pierre in what would be a retirement fight to claim who the GOAT is. However, even without the St. Pierre fight, if Khabib can get to 30-0 and retire I don’t see how he can’t be unanimously considered the GOAT by the entire MMA community.■

Jason Marlowe, UnknownMMA

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